Source: The Mercury, 27 September, 1996, p.85
By TED HOPKINS
THE computer seems to like it at the business end of the season. So far it has tipped the winner for each final. If North wins, it will make it nine out of nine for Swinburne University maths professor Stephen Clarke, who is the writer of the program. It calculates North has a 63% chance of beating Sydney by an expected margin of 13 points. This margin includes a six-point home ground advan- tage made up of four points to North and minus two points for Sydney. A ground advantage of one goal is around the middle range for teams competing at the G. It's nowhere near the kind of margins enjoyed by interstate teams in their home finals, but in a close game six points can mean the difference between winning and losing. What the computer is effectively saying is that if the game were played on neutral territory, North is a seven- point better side than Sydney, based purely on rating the scores of each team, with a weighting given to more re- cent games. The computer does not take into account player selections, injuries or tribunal reports. While there seems to be a perception that Sydney is near to a certainty beaten, the computer doesn't think so. A 63% chance of North winning still gives the Swans a 37% look in, which is a fair tilt at the flag. There is another level of data not fed into the computer which also gives the Swans a fair go. They have the equal best defence in the compe- tition and have been credited with the most number of kicks of any team this season. With the exception of a shaky start and its game against Fremantle in Perth, Sydney has either won, or has been very competitive when it has travelled interstate. These are all the signs of a genuine premiership con- tender. But there are also other "success indicators" to take into account, which is why North looms as the premier- ship favourite. During the finals the tempo and the pressure increases. "Easy" possessions and clear space are harder to find. When the heat is on, it follows that the team with the proven ability to win the hard ball contests on the ground and in the air, and then deliver long and effectively, has the advan- tage. North should win because percentages count in a grand final. Clear possessions are luxuries, if you can get 'em!
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